Ivanka Siolkowsky, 37, gave up a promising teaching career after losing her job when her administration learned of her depression diagnosis. “No one wanted me around children, even though everyone who knows me knows how much I care for them. I would jump in front of a bus for a child I’ve never met.”
On Bell Let’s Talk Day this year, she ventured further into public mental health advocacy, giving a powerful account of her lived experience before a national television audience on The Social.
She also talked about her transition to a new career as a professional organizer, which she says came directly out of her experience with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). “If I couldn’t control my mind, I had to take control over my surroundings. Through decluttering and organization, I was able to gain a level of inner peace I didn’t even know existed.”
March was going to be her best month ever, earning more income in that one month than she had in any of the previous entire three years.
Then the pandemic came and all of her bookings and speaking engagements were cancelled.
Then she got COVID-19 herself and was hospitalized for two weeks.
Despite all that, she surprised even herself with her upbeat attitude during the crisis.
I’m shocked with how well I am handling this. I have been oddly positive throughout this whole experience.
It helps that I am not shy about my OCD, which includes germaphobia. I can laugh at myself. I was the butt of everyone’s jokes because I started wearing a mask long before I heard about the virus in December, way before anyone else. I would argue with my dad and brothers about going out and they would roll their eyes and say ‘There goes Ivanka again’.
My cousin was supposed to have a wedding in Florida in May and they asked me why I hadn’t bought my ticket yet and I said ‘Because there’s a global pandemic - it’s not going to happen!”
About a week before we went into lockdown, my Instagram DM’s were blowing up with people asking me what mask I use and where I buy my gloves. Suddenly I was an expert in crazy paranoia
Before I got sick, I took out a blow-up unicorn costume I had and just went walking around the streets of my neighbourhood to cheer up kids, playing window tic-tac-toe, and waving through their windows. I just wanted them to not feel scared (circling back to how much I care about children).
What gets me out my dark moods is service to others every time. I feel like I was put through my own personal hell to help others get through their tough times.